The refrain is often “but I can’t draw”.
In the book “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain”, Betty Edwards opens the doors to the secret of being able to draw. These are secrets that come naturally to some people – the people whose right brain is dominant, but even for a “very left brained” person, drawing skills can be improved upon in a phenomenal way.
Very few people are overwhelmingly right or left brained and usually one side of the brain is dominant.
Right brained people are more intuitive and creative, but often forget things and lose track of time; typically musicians and artists. Left brained people are good at numbers and recalling facts but are less creative than their right brained counterparts, typically actuaries and PA’s. Right brained people can learn more self discipline in their thinking and left brained people can learn to tune into their creative side.
So what are these secrets?
Drawing is the ability to reflect what is observed in a two-dimensional image on a piece of paper but the left brain feeds the right brain with information that often confuses the viewer.
Let me give some examples:
A cyclinder on a table is flat on its base, but in a correct drawing it looks curved. The knowledge that it is on a flat table prevents you from seeing that it actually looks elliptical, so the temptation is to draw what you know rather than what you see.
A child will often draw a necklace on her mother like a halo because it is circular, not a half circle.
Does an average left-brained person experience right brain moments?
Yes! Think of when you have lost track of time, or your car seems to have driven you home without you thinking about the route!
By quietening the left brain the student can proceed with accurate drawing.
In her book, Edwards take you through a series of excercises to quieten the left brain and make the right brain do the work. this “blind contour” drawing of the hand was done without looking at the paper!
I first came across this book in 1974 while teaching art to a group of 15 year olds who had taken art as a soft option to geography. In adapting Edward’s methods to my teaching, the results amazed me and some students who were bound for failure began producing respectable drawings. They would never become Leonardos, but they had achieved work way beyond their dreams. I have since used these in various ways in my teaching and on the one-day Art of Burgert course, we had an opportunity to tune into a couple of the “tricks”
Hans Joachim Burget’s work is very graphic in nature and harmonises beautifully with his lettering. He has a strong black and white emphasis with very stylised illustration using a monoline nib such as “Brause Ornamental” (the nib with a dot on the end instead of a square tip) and his drawing is also linear.
|Carole, Marion, Sylvia and Suzanna – only one of these women had confidence about drawing!|
Many of the people who feel very much out of their comfort zone with drawing. They were given five minutes to do a drawing of the shell in pencil and were told to follow the outline and main interior lines millimeter by millimeter with their eyes and to allow the pencil to move at the same pace. Being given such a short time meant that there was no time to panic – everyone just got on with it; and following the contours meant that they were observing closely instead of drawing a quick approximation of a shell. The second exercise was to do it again, but this time with the Brause nib and ink, adding the details later with the fine nib. Without the possibility of being able to erase, the artist is very careful about where to draw a line!
By blocking one eye, the sense of three dimensionality is reduced, creating monocular vision and this also helps.
One of my favourite excerices is blind contour drawing where the student draws without looking at the paper or lifting the pencil! It is amazing how sensitive and beauitful the lines are and even how the object is still recognisable. This is what is called a “process drawing not necessarily a product drawing – the process is more important than the outcome. The shell study is usually a follow-on from blind contour srawing. Another excerice involved copying a drawing which has been placed upside down to force the artist to think of shapes rather than to say “this is an eye and therefore should be almond shaped” which is preconceived left brain information.
Learning to draw using these methods is well worth the investment of time. As a calligrapher, one has already learnt to copy shapes and look at counterspaces, comparing an uncial O with a Gothic or Italic O. Drawing from life is the same process – seeing shapes and committing them to paper.
Edwards, Betty Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain (2001)